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City of Banjul
Saturday, April 17, 2021

Are we sleepwalking ourselves into a catastrophe?

For the first time, at least four students from a high school in the Greater Banjul Area have contracted Covid-19 leading to the complete closure of the top school for three weeks. According to the latest national situation report, two new Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded, bringing the total number of deaths to 134 since records began in March last year.

Currently there are 217 active cases, with 53 new cases registered bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases ever confirmed in the country to 4,237. Of the new cases, 28 were confirmed on Wednesday and 25 on Thursday. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a staggering 105,403,118 were confirmed worldwide, 77,233,033 of whom recovered with 2,292,806 dying.

In our country, 4,237 cases were confirmed with 3,886 recovering and 134 dying. Every death is one death too many but we got away relatively unscathed. And what do we thank for this? Certainly not being anything special or the crownish virus liking us so much as to spare us! We got away because the authorities took tough but necessary actions.

These actions had to be ended or scaled down when the infection rate went down. Things improved but we are not yet out of the woods. The number of cases and deaths are on the rise again. For all we know, we might be going into a second wave. And what is more troubling is that variant strains of the disease which are more contagious and deadlier have been discovered and are present in this country.

We are staring catastrophe in the face because unlike the rich Western countries, we do not have the vaccines to protect our people – even people at the highest risk including the elderly, frontline and essential workers. Being in such dire straits, our best line of action is adopting preventative measures. These include mandatory wearing of facemasks, washing hands, observing social distances and mass testing.

But what is happening is nothing short of madness or unconscionable shirking of responsibility by certain people including the health and political authorities by allowing unnecessary social gatherings like mass political rallies or music events which could serve as super-spreaders. What are we going to do when mass infections break out and we do not have enough quarantine facilities, enough hospital beads, ventilators, vaccines and even the responsive medical personnel?

The UDP recently a massive rally after its annual congress; last weekend the NPP filled the Independence Stadium at its launching after the president himself spent a whole month crisscrossing the country holding political rallies in the guise of the Meet the People Tour; local artistes packed thousands of young people to launch albums; our authorities allowed a Nigerian artiste to come here and hold a major gig at the Bakau stadium. As if these are not irresponsible enough, there is even talk of allowing two über popular Senegalese singers to hold grand music events here whereas they cannot do so even in their own countries!

It’s time to bring this idiocy to a stop. The Minister of Health, himself a high-ranking surgeon, has been given all the powers to do his job. He should act by banning all such events until the coast is relatively clear. Otherwise we will sleepwalk ourselves into a major catastrophe.

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